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General Questions About Finding Work
Thread poster: Bryan Smith

Bryan Smith
Local time: 05:28
German to English
+ ...
Apr 21, 2006

Hello all,

Well, I have decided to try full force to get into the translation business. I have already done a couple jobs that I got through this site, but they were both one-off rush jobs by cheapskates who paid embarrasingly low rates, but I wanted the work. Also, in my spare time, I have been translating Wikipedia articles and some documents for a political activist group to hone my skills and so forth. I have read a lot of these posts and, of course, this question has been asked and answered a lot of different ways, but what I really want is some down and dirty specifics if possible.
For instance, for those of you who are working regularly, what percentage of jobs do you get through Proz (or other online sites?) and what percentage through other methods? What other methods do you/did you use to attract clients, especially those with a continuous stream of work?
I have worked as a computer programmer for years, have a philosophy degree, am a published author, have most credits toward and a second degree in film/video, play in a working rock band, and I'm sure have other skills I can't think of right now. Where do I look for people who need translations in the skills that I have. As you can see, I have a diverse skill set and, I would imagine, the software/IT thing would be especially marketable. Yet somehow, a lot of the job postings are in areas that I do not exactly feel I would be comfortable working in. A lot of medical and law, for example. Obviously there is no way I could make a living just working off the job postings on this site.
Also, I'm sure there are a lot of people trying to get into translation. After all, it's basically a dream job. You get to work with and study languages, reasearch and read about diverse topics, and have the flexibility to work from home and not be tied to a location! So how do I seperate myself from the myriad of others who also have very little experience and a strong desire? Any ideas?
For the time being, I have to work a day job for money so my availability is very limited. Are a lot of clients comfortable doing business purely by e-mail? This is how I worked with my two clients so far, but I don't know if this is a gauge of the industry or not.
I have decided to take a stand on the low paying jobs and am definitely not taking anything under $.06 a word and only that if it's a ridiculously easy job. Therefore, I need to find good soild clients who rely on me and will pay me what I'm worth. What are these type of clients looking for?
With so little professional translation work, what do I put on my Profile page or CV? I have kind of a mix of a resume and marketing spiel on there now. Does that work or are there specific things people are looking for?

Thanks for all the help. I can't wait until I can make this my full-time job.

Bryan Smith

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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:58
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
Hope this helps Apr 22, 2006

1. How jobs are won on members get jobs not only from those that are posted, but also through direct contact through their profile. This requires a favourible listing on the directory of translators for your language pairs. There are several ways of managing this:

a) If you become a paying member, you are automatically given priority over non-paying users, so your profile moves up the directory when you become a member.

b) The directory listing is also based on the number of kudoz points you have earned in your language pair, so it will help you if you enter the kudoz arena and start answering the questions that are posted in your language pairs.

This will also bring you to the notice of other translators, many of whom are outsourcers, and who will make a note of you if your answers are above the cut and stand out for their better quality, accuracy and depth of knowledge of the subject, and they may offer you jobs.

c) Another very effective way of advertising your skils on is to participate in the various forum discussions. The quality of your posts, if they are good, will not go unnoticed, and will eventually lead to many collaborations and job offers.

d) You can also stand out from the crowd by submitting articles on topics related to translations and your specific subject area to

2) How to use the Blue-Board and the Directory of Translators.

To get complete access to these features of you will need to become a full-paying member, which you should seriously consider, but even otherwise you can use large sections of them.

Skim through the directory, countrywise, language-pair wise and subject area-wise, and prepare a list of a few hundred (the more the better) agencies which have a high listing on the Blue-board (which is an indicator of honest, trouble-free agencies) and which work in your language pairs and subject areas and send them a brief note about yourself, your skill sets, rates, etc., and attach a one page resume. Hopefully something will come out of it.

You can also visit the websites of the translation agencies you have selected and enter your details online, a facility which many translation agencies offer.

You can repeat the above steps with other translation sites on the internet, such as,,, and many others.

3) Put up your website

4) Make use of the current lull period to prepare yourself for the deluge of work (hopefully!) that will soon come

If you do the above actions diligently, you will eventually start getting work, and soon you will be so overwhelmed that you will have very little time for any thing else.

So this is the time for you to prepare yourself for a serious career in translation business.

Acquire CAT tools likes TRADOS, SDLX, Wordfast, etc., and familiarise yourself with their use.

Prepare glossaries in your subject areas and language pairs in a format that the above CAT tools can use.

Set up an up to date computer system and internet connection with back up facilities and spares of everything including keyboard, mouse and monitor.

Work out your translation rates, by comparing them with the rates of others. Keep them neither too low nor too high.

Acquire dictionaries, grammar books, style books and other references.

There are several good articles in the article section on getting established. Read them, you will get many more ideas. Also read through the questions posted by others in the Getting Established forum.

There is a book called something like How To Earn 80,000 Dollars A Year As A Transltor which has many useful tips for beginners. See if you can get hold of it. There is also a web site related to this book. There were also some good discussions on this book in See if you can locate those threads on this site by doing a Search.

Good luck.

[Edited at 2006-04-22 15:37]

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Bryan Smith
Local time: 05:28
German to English
+ ...
Thanks! Apr 22, 2006

Thanks very much. I appreciate the effort put into such a thorough post. I will look into the aqvenues you discuss. One follow up question, although I'm not sure if this should be a new topic or not...
Basically, what is there to know about CAT tools? I am currently using OmegaT and like it quite a bit. I have been meaning to download the limited free version of WordFast just to check it out. TRADOS is definitely out of the question as it is far too expensive right now. So, basically, what issues can I run into in the translation business based on CAT tools? I have seen some posts for jobs that say they require TRADOS, but how much of a difference does it actually make. OmegaT says it is TMX Level 1 compliant and says that, for this reason, it can work with TM's from other applications and so forth. I recently read an article by a WordFast user who said that he has often taken jobs that "require" TRADOS and done them in Wordfast, the client being none the wiser.
So really, what difference do these applications make?

Bryan Smith

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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:58
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
It will be useful to be familiar with them Apr 23, 2006

You are right that much of what can be done with Trados can also be done with Wordfast, but it will be useful to be familiar with the use of Trados, SDLX, and other cat tools.

And this is the time to learn them, when the pressure of work is not so overwhelming.

With the free version of Wordfast there is a translation memory limit of I think 500 units. So you can't store a very large Translation Memomory with Wordfast, unless you have purchased the software. Translation Memories are more useful if they are large, as chances of getting hits is higher with a larger translation memory.

Also Trados has some specific utilities like TagEditor which are useful for translating HTML and other tagged files. So if you do a lot website translation, these tools will be useful.

Further some job posters insist that a particular software be used for a particular job, so it will be helpful to be familiar with a wide range of translation tools.

Free trial versions of both Trados and SDLX can be downloaded from their websites which you can use to learn these softwares.

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Local time: 04:28
English to French
+ ...
It's not what you know... Apr 24, 2006

Hi Bryan

you say you worked as a computer programmer for years, so you must know a bunch of people in that industry. Did you tell all of them that you are now a translator?

Also, since you know IT, there's probably a lot of things you can do in your profile to showcase those skills.

One last idea: this is a translation site. Have you tried IT techie sites?

Yes, I'm not mentioning philosophy or music, you're not going to find too many jobs in those fields.

Good luck!

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Bryan Smith
Local time: 05:28
German to English
+ ...
Not as many as you might think Apr 24, 2006

Yes, even though I have been working in software development for years, I really don't have many useful contacts I can pull out. The companies I have worked for are all very small, self-contained US software makers hence unlikely to have any leads for a translator. The company I'm working for now is doing some work with developers overseas, but I would be stupid to tell my current employers that I am pursuing another job avenue before I'm making enough money at it to deal with the consequences of that action.
That is a good idea to maybe look at some sites where multi-national software companies might hang out, though.
Thanks for your reply!

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Dyran Altenburg  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:28
English to Spanish
+ ...
Other options Apr 27, 2006

Some suggestions are:

1) Consider joining the ATA (American Translators Association)
Most of my new clients contact me after seeing my information listed on their website.

2) If not enough experience is an issue, consider doing pro-bono work for well-known and well-established charitable organizations.

3) Consider not charging less than the going rate for your language pairs. If you are capable and can do a good job, charge the same rate a top-notch professional charges, and have your work revised by an expert in the field. You will need to pay for this revision, but the feedback will be good for you and the end client will be happy.

4) Consider taking language related courses (applied linguistics, for example). In my experience, the best translators are those with a specialty (IT in your case) and an excellent knowledge of *both* their source and target languages (syntax analysis, comparative terminology, glossary creation, grammar, etc.)

5) Network. A lot. My best clients contacted me because of recommendations from other clients/colleagues. Some options are: creating your own website/blog; participating in translation related mailing lists; attending seminars; joining your local chamber of commerce/professional guild, etc.

FWIW, I was once a paying member of ProZ but decided it didn't work for me, and now I only use the site every so often (as well as other fora) to keep abreast of what goes on in the industry.

(if you'd like more specific pointers, feel free to contact me directly through my profile)

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Slavica Kosca-Vrlazic  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:28
English to Croatian
+ ...
I do outsourcing but not in your language pair. Apr 28, 2006

Hi Brian!

I do outsourcing for young, unestablished translators and total beginners (who have previously earned their degree in some language) but in my language combinations. They get paid as everyone else in their category, and I do the editing, proofreading and all other revisions at my expense. Then I send the corrected text to them with all comments attached. What do I achieve by this? I "educate" translators that develop freely, without the pressure of not being able to earn for living, I detect their special talents and I strongly advise them to specialize. They are well aware that they can get help at any time for any question from the group. As for interpreting,they get advice on professional demenour and expertise. In turn, they are very loyal and almost always at my clients' disposal , precise and there are NEVER, NEVER, NEVER unpleasant surprises regarding deadlines.

When I started to work as a translator, I realized I couldn't compete with much more experienced translators in terms of prices. Hence, I started to volunteer - I devoted most of my time and energy in volunteering for different non-profit organizations. Sometimes I felt exhausted and dissapointed after having received a million compliments for my work and not a cent for it (after all, I wanted to buy everything for my son). There was no end to my surprise when in a year (or was it two?) people started paying in advance ridiculously high amounts just to see my name on the list of translators i.e. interpreters (consecutive and simultaneous interpreting is my specialty), paying in advance just to make sure that I would stay till the beginning of the session/seminar (although I had never fled) and immediately offered me interpreting assignments even if I was there only as a visitor or guest at that particular seminar for which they already had interpreters.

I believe that you will find an old-fashioned outsourcer like me. However, first of all, you must be patient!
I wish you luck.

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Richard Bartholomew  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:28
Member (2007)
German to English
A couple of suggestions Apr 30, 2006

All you need now is some wannabe Inspector Clouseau over in HR to Google: "Bryan Smith" philosophy programmer and discover that "I have worked as a computer programmer for years, have a philosophy degree, ... I can't wait until I can make this my full-time job. Bryan Smith ...".

To render this irrelevant, have you ever considered trying contract work? As a shopper (techie freelancer) you:

o earn a lot more per hour than you do as a direct
(captive employee),

o don't have to worry about your client finding out that
you're looking elsewhere for work, because you're not
expected to be "loyal",

o have more or less lengthy down times between contracts
during which you can devote your full attention to

o can find out whether freelancing is for you.

The down side is that you

o have to be ready to travel anywhere at the drop of a
hat (although per diem helps take the sting out of that),

o might be out of work for two or even three years during a
long recession like the one that started after 2000,

o might have a hard time finding adequate medical insurance,

o have to deal with shops (agencies) that might not be all
that ethical.

If contracting sounds like a possibility for you, check out Good Luck.

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